Too Slow

Hi Dr. Darcy!

I’m 22 years old and have always known I was gay... but, I was raised to believe it's a terrible sin. I was also abused for many years and have never had close female friends, so I’m extremely shy around women that I like. I'm working through this and going on dates (and actually have a lot of luck with meeting awesome women), but the same thing happens over and over: They want to kiss or hold hands right away, I explain that I need to take it slow, and they get really hurt or offended and I never hear from them again. (except for a few who have called me later in tears because they didn't understand why I seemed to be sending mixed messages).

It's not that I don't want to make out, I just really need to feel more comfortable first. I can't figure out if it's my communication style or if the fact that I have boundaries is just really off-putting.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER

You say you’re working through [the abuse?] but I’m not sure what steps you’re taking to work through it. If you mean that you’re forcing yourself to date women despite feeling shy, I want you to know that in my book, that doesn’t constitute working through anything. We call that white-knuckling change, and by that we mean that you’re trying to change behaviors without changing things on the inside. This approach is like going on a crash diet without getting to the underlying reasons for why you’re overeating. It’s a short-term solution. And for you it’s not even that.

Look, you were raised in a homophobic environment which has likely left you with some level of internalized homophobia. And because of that, it’s hard to pinpoint where the internalized homophobia begins and the issues around the abuse end. I suspect that they comingle and create a complex system that looks as though you’re setting healthy boundaries when in fact you’re setting yourself (and these other women) up for rejection.

I hate to pull out the ‘normal’ card, but I don’t see a way around it:  It’s not normal at your age to need to go slower than hand holding or kissing. Any slower and you’d be moving backwards.  And actually, you are. Your date tries to hold your hand or kiss you and you in turn tell her that you need to go slowly which ruptures the connection and then you’re back at square one.

When the same thing happens again and again, it’s a signal that you’re failing to learn a universal lesson.  You keep having the same experience on dates…and so it means that you’re failing to learn a lesson.  Instead of learning the lesson, however, you keep thinking that it’s a problem with the women you’re dating.  It’s not. It’s a problem with you.  So get into counseling so that you can receive guidance on how to work through your issues and get on with your life.

Writer’s Stats: Female, gay.